Category Archives: candidate education

Hazing Was


By Drew Logsdon (Western Kentucky)

This past year, several parents had to do an incredibly hard and unnecessary task. They did so with understandable pain, frustration, anger, and sadness. Life, the most beautiful gift bestowed upon us as a species, was taken from their children. Condolences were offered, prayers, and thoughts were sent, promises were made for action, results, solutions, and progress. Their children can’t be given back; the depthless void in their hearts cannot be filled.

So what can we do–we the concerned citizens who want to work against and eliminate hazing in the many areas of our society where it festers? The critics have a solution: abolish the groups they perceive as facilitating this toxic culture. Their solution is not to treat the patient but to eliminate the patient. While not the path of least resistance, it’s a course of action that wouldn’t be costly in terms of dollars for programming, staff, etc. Well-meaning critics say these organizational cultures are too far gone, too archaic, and too corrupted to be redeemed. In their view, there is no absolution available to the conditions where hazing occurs and even the thought of trying to fix the problems (problems that no one disagrees exist) is assumed to be an effort of foolishness to repair.

But I would respond that the argument holds no water.

Go to Wikipedia and in the search bar type in “Smallpox.”

Now read the first two words of that article.

Smallpox was.”

That’s right. A disease that took 300-500 million lives in the 20th century alone no longer exists. It was eradicated and the last known natural diagnosis of the disease was in 1977. The disease spanned continents and like most great, global tragedies it was ignorant of every demographic identifier. But the effort to eradicate smallpox was not brewed up in a single lab or funded by a single entity. It was a collaborative effort that, much like the disease, spanned continents and was ignorant of demographic identifiers. In fact the worldwide effort saw partnership between the two major Cold War powers.

Human civilization has solved complex social problems in the past, and it can do so again.

So is fixing the societal problem of hazing that insurmountable? The answer is no, it is not. It certainly is not an easy task but it is not impossible. The failure lies in an almost endemic lack of hope that the institutions that have stood for hundreds of years, and have adapted through several very large and serious social changes in our nation’s history, can continue to exist.

But where does one even begin? Much like the effort to eradicate smallpox, it begins with collaboration.

Unfortunately, there have been several communities – including higher education in some cases — that have taken unfair and unproductive steps by shutting out their own members during important discussions.

With regards specifically to our own community, we have witnessed fraternities and their host institution rise to the challenge when given the opportunity to collaborate together. A great example of this is Vanderbilt IFC’s recent Inclusivity Agreement and the formation of an in-house Greek Allies program.

No one is arguing that issues exist. The question being asked is whether these issues can be solved and who should be involved in doing so.

The Wikipedia article on hazing includes an unfortunate opening.

Hazing is.”

I’m ready to make the proposed edit: “Hazing was.”


Stand Up for Sigma Nu in 2014

By Drew Logsdon (Western Kentucky)

Dear Brothers,

It is with my most sincere feelings that this message finds you in good health, good spirits, and good cheer. For many, this time of year holds a special place in our hearts as a time of celebration, recognition, and reflection. We celebrate the ending of a year and the coming of another. We celebrate all that we have to be grateful for. Many of us celebrate the great moments of our faith, while a good number of others take part in other cherished cultural traditions. Perhaps most of all we celebrate the thought and firm belief that man is not forsaken and that we have only grazed the edge of our true potential in this great world. We celebrate our achievements, reflect on our losses and failures, and recognize that the start of a new year marks the start to a world of possibilities for us to reach what past Regent Joe Gilman described as Semper Ad Altum – Ever Higher.

With the year now behind us, it is also appropriate that we celebrate our great Legion of Honor. This great brotherhood has stretched across generations and continents and has not only lived another year but has thrived to push us into the start of another.

But we should always recognize that much is still to be done and accomplished.

As we celebrate 145 years of our great fraternity, we remain confronted with those who tear down the foundations of human decency and respect to replace them with malice. The cultural ill of hazing that plagues our society’s organizations and teams exists under the false premise that one should be subjugated to another. It is a premise that has been debated many times and defended out of ignorance. As members of an organization built upon the principle that men should no longer be beholden to the whims of children (for the perpetrators are far from anything else) it is our duty to lift the veil of ignorance and shine a light as bright as our beloved White Star on the damage and destruction that hazing causes.

Founders At The Rock_crop

Let us reflect on Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, specifically the foreboding warning that the Ghost of Christmas Present extends. He reveals a boy described as ignorance and a girl described as want. “Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”

Brothers, ignorance is our greatest foe in this new year. It is from ignorance in which the resolve of those who would disingenuously call themselves Knights of the Legion of Honor is fostered. They are our true traitor knights. They take our solemn oath to stand for our values of Love, Honor, and Truth but they do not embrace either in their hearts or minds. They speak of Love as they watch their candidates suffer torments and juvenile pranks in their distorted version of “pledging.” They speak of Honor as they disgrace the good name of gentleman by embodying their twisted and perverted idea of what manhood is. They become so focused on gaining fleeting recognition from humor websites that they forget why fraternity exists in the first place.  They speak of Truth as they dishonestly wear the letters that so many before them have given soul and spirit to preserve.

It is also in ignorance that we find our doubters and nay-sayers who demean the fraternal movement and view only the weaknesses of a few and cast a blind eye to the strengths of so many. They view a world without fraternities and sororities as one free from all the social ills they see, but they do not see how fraternities and sororities are the furnaces in which the steel of values, citizenship, leadership, ethics, and the lifelong ties of lasting and loving friendship are forged. But we have not washed our hands in this struggle, for those who have wronged our values have given the critics the stones to cast from their glass houses.

I challenge each and every member of our great and distinguished brotherhood to reflect this season and then stand.

Stand for Honor and live up to the worthiness of the oath you took upon your initiation and never cease to remind yourself of them.

Stand for Love in a world that has far too few examples of it and volunteer at a local community service organization to assist in erasing want. Stand for Truth and challenge those who would dishonestly wear the letters of Sigma Nu while they exemplify all that we do not stand for.

These actions do not require a great deal of effort. They only require that you do something.

So this holiday season, as we spend time with those who mean the most to us and indulge in those most precious of human emotions – happiness –let us not forget to be grateful for what we have. Let us cherish it and then work to preserve it.

It is unlikely we will ever reach a utopia, but if that remains our end destination then every year we shall come closer and closer. And a world closer to that destination today is better than yesterday.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season and I look forward to standing with you in 2014.

Q and A with Karla Hunt from Make Hazing Stop

How did you become involved with anti-hazing initiatives?

My activism in the fight against hazing is a direct result of the abuse my son suffered while a member of his high school swim team. Hazing victims face many obstacles trying to recover from the abuse they suffered and I wanted to help my son recover in the best way possible.  I hope sharing my story with others will help someone else who may feel lost or alone.  My son was one of the 1.5 million victims of high school hazing abuse annually.  While our main goal is to see hazing come to an end, until that time we hope to become a resource for other families facing similar situations.

What challenges have you faced in trying to address hazing in your community?

The biggest challenge we have faced is the shroud of secrecy that surrounded hazing here.  The complete and total circling of the wagons to deny the problem exists.  A problem cannot be addressed if it is not acknowledged in the first place.  Anyone who downplays or ignores hazing is jeopardizing the lives of the victims. As if hazing wasn’t bad enough by itself, it’s traumatic to have the abuse discounted by those who could and should do something to stop it.  Victims must be treated with care and compassion to help them deal with the trauma they have experienced.

What advice would you give others trying to eliminate hazing in their group or community?

Educate everyone and enforce rules that have been put in place to deter such behavior.  When rules are ignored and hazing behaviors are not disciplined, it sends a strong message that hazing is condoned and tolerated.  When that happens, the smaller behaviors turn into the larger behaviors as the perpetrators become emboldened by an attitude of acceptance and tolerance.  School officials and law enforcement personnel, as well as prosecutors and government agencies, must recognize the damage that results from hazing and respond appropriately when abuse is reported.  All 50 states have laws requiring teachers, doctors, and police to report child abuse, both physical and psychological, and hazing should be included under these statutes.   There are clearly victims and yet all too often hazing is not seen as a crime by those who in a position to help the victims.

Finally, should you become aware of a hazing culture within an organization, report it immediately.  Report it to anyone and everyone.  You cannot do too much towards ending hazing.  It will take a collective effort to end hazing, but it can be done.

To learn more about Karla and her son’s experience visit the Make Hazing Stop Facebook page.

2013 40 Answers Campaign Begins Today

In partnership with Sigma Nu Fraternity, HazingPrevention.Org is pleased to announce the 2013 #40Answers Campaign.  For each of the 40 days leading up to National Hazing Prevention Week (September 23 – 27, 2013), one commonly heard excuse for hazing will be posted via the Twitter accounts for HazingPrevention.Org (@PreventHazing) and Sigma Nu Fraternity (@SigmaNuHQ).

Participating in the campaign is easy!  First, follow @PreventHazing and @SigmaNuHQ to see the hazing excuse for each day.  Second, post your answer to that excuse using your personal or organization’s Twitter account. Note all Twitter posts should include the #40Answers hashtag so the conversation can be easily followed.  Lastly, follow the conversation by searching Twitter for posts tagged with “#40Answers”.







The list bellow outlines the 40 commonly heard excuses for hazing that will be used for this year’s #40Answers Campaign.  The first excuse will be posted via the HazingPrevention.Org (@PreventHazing) and Sigma Nu Fraternity (@SigmaNuHQ) Twitter accounts on August 14, 2013.

All are encouraged to participate.  Just be sure to include the #40Answers hashtag in your response posts so others can easily follow the conversation.

  1. New members have to earn their way into this group/team/organization.
  2. I don’t think _________ is hazing.
  3. This is just part of becoming a member of a team/organization/fraternity/sorority.
  4. Other groups/teams/organizations/chapters won’t respect us if we don’t haze.
  5. Professional sports teams do the same thing. It’s on ESPN and they never get in trouble. Why do we?
  6. It’s all in fun. We aren’t trying to hurt anyone.
  7. Hazing builds better members by breaking them down so we can build them up and make them stronger.
  8. They chose to participate.
  9. We’ve always done it that way.
  10. Hazing unites the new teammates/new member class.
  11. We won’t get caught.
  12. Hazing teaches freshmen/rookies to respect the upperclassmen.
  13. The university only prohibits hazing because they have to for liability reasons.
  14. Hazing made me a better person.
  15. They have it easy compared to what I went through.
  16. We can’t just allow anyone into our group/team/organization.
  17. That other organization/team asked us to haze their members, but we wouldn’t do that to our own members/teammates.
  18. My organization/team does lots of great things. Why are you focusing on this little thing?
  19. If we stop hazing then we’ll lose alumni support or respect from other teams.
  20. No one is going to die from _______.
  21. You hazed in your organization/team, why should I listen to you now when you say it’s wrong?
  22. I’m not the captain/president/new member educator; I can’t change what we are doing.
  23. Everyone else on campus does it.
  24. It’s tradition.
  25. Hazing helps us weed out those who really don’t want to be here.
  26. There was a stated educational purpose to what we were doing, so it’s not hazing.
  27. We can’t do anything fun anymore. Everything is hazing.
  28. They wanted to be hazed.
  29. Our new members/rookies are going to drink anyway. We’re not having them do anything they wouldn’t do on their own.
  30. The members of __________haze worse than we do!
  31. New members must learn to appreciate the team/organization.
  32. Even if we do get in trouble, the school can’t get rid of our team/organization/chapter; the alumni will stop their donations.
  33. I had to go through it so the new members/rookies need to do it too.
  34. We don’t agree with it; we’re just waiting for the seniors to graduate.
  35. We only haze a little bit.
  36. It’s just boys being boys. They are just stupid pranks.
  37. We give our rookies/new members the option to not participate.
  38. If I ask campus professionals or advisors for help, our organization will be shut down or our team will lose its season.
  39. The military hazes.  Why can’t we?
  40. It used to be much worse.

What Jay Bilas and the NCAA Have to Do with 40 Answers

By Nathaniel Clarkson (James Madison)

The NCAA announced last week that it would stop selling jerseys and other team memorabilia on its website after acknowledging it could be seen as hypocritical, according to ESPN.

As the governing body for college sports the NCAA prohibits student-athletes from receiving financial benefits in an effort to preserve the players’ amateur status. The NCAA’s decision to shutter its online merchandise shop follows a series of tweets by ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas in which he drew attention to the NCAA’s inconsistency in profiting from student-athletes who are barred from doing the same.

If not for Jay Bilas’ tweets it’s unlikely the story would have been picked up by major news outlets whose coverage eventually pressured the NCAA to change direction. The NCAA’s reversal on selling team merchandise illustrates the potential for one person on Twitter to achieve change through mere words.

This week marks the beginning of the 4th annual 40 Answers in 40 Days, the Twitter campaign that invites participants to crowdsource answers to the 40 most common excuses for hazing in the 40 days leading up to National Hazing Prevention Week.

From the very start 40 Answers is always filled with enthusiasm and passion – Twitter users from fraternities, sororities, teams and other organizations eager to stand up and share their rebuttals to the most ubiquitous ways their peers rationalize hazing.

Equally predictable is the occasional Twitter troll who turns up each year to tell us why tweeting “isn’t actually doing anything” and “we need to actually do something.

But as we’ve seen in so many cases – most recently by Jay Bilas tweeting the NCAA into submission – Twitter and 40 Answers have the potential to achieve real change. Equipping student leaders with the intellectual firepower to change their organization is doing something. After all, you can’t change a person’s actions until you change their mind.

New Group Learning Environment Mirrors Fraternity Leadership Development Programs

Faculty member Dave Mainella works with chapter presidents during the 2012 College of Chapters in St. Louis.

GOOD magazine has a new story up about an intriguing program at Penn State that aims to provide professional mentoring for college students all living in the same house:

Imagine as many as 60 entrepreneurial college students living under a single roof and being mentored by successful professionals in their chosen fields. That’s the idea behind a social living project called in State College, Pennsylvania.

Working with more than 50 student interns from Penn State, New Leaf built the framework that will serve as a model for other universities interested in the project: a two-year program for juniors and seniors that includes a semester of training, the opportunity to lead a semester-long project, a summer internship, and a personal mentor—plus a plethora of professional networking options in-house.

It sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? What are some ways fraternities could collaborate with GOOD or on a similar project?

A tale of two chapters – the opportunity cost of hazing

While your chapter was designing this year’s recruitment t-shirt (another beer logo, of course), my chapter was having lunch with prospective members and their parents.

While your chapter was creating demeaning nicknames for each pledge, my chapter was taking the time to learn each candidate’s name, hometown and life story.

While your chapter was debating what embarrassing costume each pledge should wear for this weekend’s party, my chapter was helping each candidate set personal goals for the semester.

While your chapter was out buying family drinks for Big Brother night, my chapter was arranging a mentoring program for each candidate to work with an alumnus in his field of study.

While your chapter was holding the weekly line-up in the basement to grill pledges on arbitrary questions they can’t answer, our brothers were at the library studying with the candidates (our candidates learn Fraternity history from the brothers).

While your pledges were out stealing road signs, defacing property, and breaking into campus buildings during the annual scavenger hunt, our candidates were listening to a guest speaker talk about time management skills and effective study habits at our weekly chapter meeting.

While your pledges were running errands and performing arbitrary tasks to complete their interview books, we were hosting a parents’ dinner to learn more about our candidates and their families.

While your brothers were harassing pledges in front of their dates at last weekend’s mixer, our chapter was hosting an etiquette dinner with the top sorority on campus.

While your chapter was trying to coordinate manufactured stories for the upcoming “nationals” visit, my chapter was updating our strategic plan to free up time for feedback and guidance during the leadership consultant’s visit.

While your chapter was searching for loopholes in the risk reduction policy for this weekend’s off-campus party, my chapter was hosting a speaker on alcohol education open to the entire campus. (We hosted a party that weekend too, except we followed our insurance guidelines.)

While your members were swapping stories of drunken female conquests from the previous night, my chapter was hosting a campus-wide program on preventing sexual assault.

While your chapter accepted mediocrity, we sought excellence.

While your chapter slowly fumbled everything away, we gradually earned our way to the top.

And while your chapter looked for someone to blame, we resolved to reach for the next level.

Rock Chapter recipients proudly display their awards during the 64th Grand Chapter in Boston.

Khan Academy and the LEAD Program

“Khan Academy is an educational website,” reports technology writer Clive Thompson, “that, as its tagline puts it, aims to let anyone “learn almost anything—for free.” Students, or anyone interested enough to surf by, can watch some 2,400 videos in which the site’s founder, Salman Khan, chattily discusses principles of math, science, and economics (with a smattering of social science topics thrown in).”

The core of Khan Academy’s approach sounds remarkably similar to the impetus behind moving the LEAD Program to an online format:

The idea is to invert the normal rhythms of school, so that lectures are viewed on the kids’ own time and homework is done at school. It sounds weird, Thordarson admits, but this flipping makes sense when you think about it.

Similarly, the LEAD Program transitioned to an online format so participants could learn the vital information on their own, freeing up time for interactive discussion during group meetings.

Read the full story here and browse Khan Academy’s impressive collection of video lessons here.



The Fraternity Whisperer

Some advice from an unlikely source…

On how to treat others:

Brannaman recalls that Dorrance once advised him, “ ‘Buck, don’t treat ‘em how they are, treat ‘em how you’d like ‘em to be.’ He never did say if he was talking about people or horses. But I knew he was talking about both.”

As we’ve seen many times over, treating candidates like second-class citizens only breeds apathy and resentment. On the other hand, regarding the chapter’s newest members as contributing, honorable, model brothers-in-training creates lasting, meaningful relationships based on shared positive experiences.

The subject’s description of his estranged father sounds remarkably similar to the profile of a hazer:

“I don’t know a lot of facts about my dad because he was a pathological liar,” Brannaman tells me. “He had some of the grandest stories. He told us kids that his great-grandfather had gone West with a wheelbarrow full of leather tools, and he was a saddle maker who had a ranch in Montana. He had a string of lies and he was very intelligent, very convincing, very charismatic—so everybody believed him.”

Hazing thrives on misinformation and a false sense of trust. Also convincing and charismatic, hazers take advantage of candidates who may not know any better.

If you can believe it, this sage advice came from the profile of a storied horse trainer.

Four Reasons Ritual is Important to Sigma Nu

By Director of Communications Nathaniel Clarkson

1. Renewal of purpose.

There are plenty of practical reasons to begin every chapter meeting with The Ritual. Most chapters only convene for 1-2 hours per week so opening with The Ritual sets a serious tone for the meeting. The Ritual asks participants to wear coat and tie, which contributes to an atmosphere conducive to accomplishing the business of the fraternity.

Beyond fostering a professional atmosphere and providing other tangible benefits, The Ritual serves a much deeper function, namely, to remind us of Sigma Nu’s purpose. Between the hectic day-to-day activities of running the chapter, sometimes it’s easy to forget why we’re all doing this fraternity thing in the first place. The Ritual serves as a reminder of Sigma Nu’s purpose and a weekly renewal of the oath each Knight swore to uphold.

2. Articulates honorable action.

Without publishing any secrets of the ceremony, the opening of The Ritual essentially asks each Knight to renew the oath he took as a candidate. Moreover, the closing reminds us all that the passages recited each week are not just words; rather, they are a call to action.

While The Ritual is secret, non-initiates should be able to decipher our Ritual by observing our actions. The Ritual serves as a guide for honorable behavior.

3. Distinguishes us from other organizations; unifies all Sigma Nu chapters.

Sigma Nu maintains nearly 180 collegiate chapters throughout North America. Naturally, each chapter develops its own unique culture over time. Some chapters boast 200+ members, each involved in a bevy of other campus organizations, while other chapters maintain a smaller brotherhood all recruited from the football team.

Despite the menagerie of interests among different chapters and even members within the same chapter, each Knight is united by the same oath to live an honorable life.  It’s a moving experience to watch Brothers from Boston, Macon and Santa Barbara stand side-by-side reciting the same ritual during conclave.

While The Ritual unites tens of thousands of Sigma Nu Brothers who’ve never met, the fraternity ritual also distinguishes us from other (inter)national fraternities.  However, the differences are much smaller than most realize. In fact, a confidential study administered by the North-American Interfraternity Conference concluded that ritual ceremonies for the prominent social fraternities showed strong similarities.

4. Teaches us to eliminate hazing.

In a subtle way, The Ritual also presents a problem for the typical hazing logic. According to the hazing narrative, candidates must complete a series of arbitrary tasks to prove they are worthy of initiation.

As the opening to ritual shows us, however, we don’t earn our membership in Sigma Nu by submitting to activities that have nothing to do with ethical leadership. Rather, we “earn our badge” each and every day by remaining faithful to our Knightly vows.